Tim Burton has been directing movies for over three decades now. His career has spawned many modern classics, most notably, in my opinion, the Michael Keaton ‘Batman’ movies. However, more recently he’s been better known for keeping the likes of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in work by dressing them up in garish make up every couple of years to star in average films and by doing so Burton has almost typecast himself as a directer. Adapted from the novel of the same name could ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ bring about a change in quality for the once exciting director?
This film has a massive range of characters so there was plenty of potential to get some big names on board here to play the peculiar collection of individuals. Hats off to the casting team here as the film is full of wonderful performers. Asa Butterfield leads the group as the hero of our story, 16 year old Jake. He holds his own, acting alongside some very well known actors and actresses. He has just the right amount of tentativeness from some of his previous roles but the development we see in him throughout the film thanks to Butterfiled’s ability results in a great performance and a likeable main character for the audience to root for. The bigger names include the likes of Judi Dench, who was unfortunately really underused – although this can be forgiven due to the large nature of the cast. Allison Janney and Rupert Eevertt have quite small roles too although they make the most of their screen time being very effective with their characters. Chris O’Dowd plays Jake’s father and somehow manages to mask his strong Irish accent. The biggest role is of course Miss Peregrine herself though, played by the brilliant Eva Green. She nails the performance here perfectly balancing her slightly animated personality with a lovable eccentricity. All this chat of performances is even before we get to the clan of peculiar children though, who all add a lot to the film and are a big reason why the fantasy element works so well.
Often films from this genre can easily become slightly ridiculous, fantasy is a very hard style to get right on the big screen but here we see some of the best fantasy in years. The careful world building and creativity on show here is like that of J.K. Rowling’s seen in the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Much of this praise has to go to Ransom Riggs who wrote the novel but also to the cast and director who brought it to life so effectively. The design on many of these creations of Riggs was really impressive and I hugely enjoyed discovering more and more elements to this world as the film progressed. The narrative that showcases this fantasy is frustratingly secretive at first but it’s also very clever, making more sense than the audience will be able to realise. The first two acts are so strong and I was loving every minute of this original concept. Although in a similar vein to Burton’s career the narrative lost its spark as it progressed. The finale substitutes the careful, clever and yet grounded world building present in the first two acts for a dumb crowd pleasing action set-piece. Whilst the finale is no doubt entertaining and features a simultaneously brilliant and awful turn from Samuel L. Jackson as villain, Mr. Barron, it’s just too much of a shift in tone from what has come before it. Elements of design, script and comedy decrease in quality so much that you’ll feel like you’re watching a completely different movie. This was so frustrating as ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ achieved so much in the lead up to this and I can’t help but think it’s the finale that will stick most in the minds of audiences.
Regardless of that fantasy fans are in for a treat with this film and fans of film in general should relish seeing this original novel be brought to life on the big screen. With such fun and creative characters portrayed by a splendid cast you’ll easily be swept up into a world allowing you to escape the one we inhabit for a few hours. However, the wonder of all this is unfortunately tarnished by a batshit crazy finale which is worlds apart from the one the film has just established. It’s not enough to undo all the hard work that the film has invested but it is enough to stop it becoming the fantasy classic that it deserved to be.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite Tim Burton movie?
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